Raise PNG wage rate, says CPL founder

Shoppers at Gordons Market, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (Roan Paul)

A prominent businessman has urged the PNG Government to increase the minimum wage to enable grassroots people to survive in these tough economic times.

City Pharmacy Ltd Group founder, Sir Mahesh Patel, said the base wages must be raised because people could not afford basic items.

“The cost of living pressures are too high,” he said.

“You say that inflation is a single digit number, but if you take a basket of goods, basic stuff like rice, tinned fish, flour, they have all gone up double digits. So how can you expect the man on the streets to afford food?

“The big powers to be, the economists have to find a solution to this.”

He said unemployment was an underrated issue in the country which must be given attention.

Launching Christmas lights at the Stop & Shop Waigani Central supermarket in Port Moresby on Friday, he said as the 2024 national budget would be tabled soon, it was important for the Government to find solutions to people’s economic hardships.

“Whatever they do with the budget, there needs to be economic stimulus,” he said.

“There is no job creation. The minimum wage is an issue – K3.60 (US$0.96) an hour is not sustainable for grassroots people.”

He re-emphasised the importance of agriculture to the economy, saying the Covid-19 had taught the nation that it (agriculture) was the country’s backbone.

“We (CPL) will still keep supporting our farmers, creating employment. That is what we are here for,” Sir Mahesh said.

“Profits are important but to grow the whole nation is important for us as well. That is why our focus keeps going back on farmers. We have some 2,000 farmers across the country, but there are thousands more.

“So if the Government can get the infrastructure right, more farmers will be better off in this country.”

He said one positive gain from the Covid-19 pandemic was that a lot of young people went to use the land.

“We recently found that a lot of young people have gone to the farm, and we try to tell them that hang on there. You do not have to come back to town and look for work,” he said. “Agriculture is the backbone and will be the backbone of this country, not the mines, not the gas,” he said.